Gravelly flood deposits of Irvine Creek, Ontario, Canada



In May 1974 a powerful flood flushed the Grand River basin, Ontario. The effects on the bedload were drastic in a narrow (30 m) and deep (40 m) rock walled and floored gorge near Elora, Ontario. Along Irvine Creek, the tributary occupying the gorge, the gravel cover was reworked in several types of bars, predominantly transverse and point bars. The bars formed very rapidly in response to essentially steady, non-uniform flow that developed during a brief period of high flood.

Superimposed on major bars are several minor sedimentary features such as coarse transverse ribs, chute channels and bars, longitudinal ribs, imbrication clusters, backsets with well developed imbrication, that were formed under very high stream discharge. Structures like imbrication clusters, transverse ribs and small riffle bars require a ‘live bed’ situation to form, and they develop when stones come to a stop either because they cluster during transport, or because keystone effects occur along shallow channels. In Irvine Creek, very few sedimentary features were formed during waning and low flood stages: only some shadow deposits and a few Ostler lenses. The few fines that were available were lost downstream or filled in lower parts of gravel beds.

This study confirms that in streams that experience strong seasonal fluctuations in discharge, bedforms that develop during high floods have a high probability of preservation. In gravelly deposits, foreset structures and plane beds are most commonly preserved, although they may be difficult to recognize in old deposits, which may appear massive, particularly if the gravel has been infilled with finer pebbles and sand. In the case of Irvine Creek, all deposits are organized, and lateral and vertical variations in textures, particularly imbrication and packing, are very useful in the recognition of sedimentary structures.